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What Goes into Making a Book?


TITLE: The first, and possibly the last item for your book, is the title. Even before the cover, the title is how people will find your book, how they will perceive it. In my view, the ideal title promises, yet does not quite deliver— which leads the browser into the book to find out more. Is it honest? Intriguing? Original? Will the contents deliver the promise of the title?

COVER: Like the title, the cover introduces the book; it beckons visually, offering a taste of what's inside. A brilliant piece of unrelated art may not be suitable for your topic or angle. Most cover art is commissioned rather than readymade. Envision what you want before you approach an illustrator. Be as precise as you can be in describing what you want, because your illustrator may never actually read your book (shocking, but true).

COVER ART: Here are some samples by illustrators. Preferred format for book art is jpg. Scanning to make a digital file, if necessary, is the artist's responsibility. Depending on your book, your own sketching or artwork may be suitable; or a stock photo, if you can find one that is suitable. My advice: don't spend a fortune on art; if your book is picked up, the publisher will almost certainly use their own design for the cover; that's their selling tool, and they know their market very well.

ILLUSTRATION OPTIONS: Freelance illustrators may apply to be listed. Make sure the illustrator understands whether you want just cover art for the front cover (and be sure that she or he knows that the printer will be trimming off a half inch on every edge)— or whether you want the illustrator to do the entire cover: back, spine, and front; and possibly the typography as well. In that case, the illustrator needs to know how many pages in the book (for the thickness of the spine).

FRONT COVER: Traditional placement of text: title, subtitle, and author on front cover, tastefully placed around or on top of art. It's also possible to have an all-type cover— in which case, you will be responsible for color choices. Covers can include any color.

SPINE: Title, author, publisher on the spine. Spine may be a different color, though printers prefer the front cover to wrap around to the spine, so that the machine fold when the cover is glued on, does not have to be precise.

BACK COVER: Back cover may contain nothing but texture or a color and a bar code/isbn. Or it could be filled with lots of text: perhaps the first paragraph of the book, or table of contents, or one or more blurbs with names. Or notice of a forthcoming book, or books already published— or anything you choose. Often a brief bio and picture of the author is found on the back cover. Plus the bar code (for the convenience of bookstores).

BARCODE, ISBN: Barcodes can be generated online for free or for a fee. An ISBN number is recommended, even for a Beta Book, since it is an edition, and should not be confused with your regular edition (which will be error-free, right?). When/if you expect to write more books, invest in ISBN numbers of your own. Bowker lists 10 numbers for $250, 100 numbers for $575. Even more than copyright, the ISBN is your best protection against piracy.

FINISH: Gloss and matte (dull) finishes are the usual choices.

BINDING: Beta Books editions are paperbound. For your regular edition, other choices are possible: comb, spiral, hardcover, etc.

FORMAT: The normal sizes are 5x8, 5.5x8.5, and 6x9 inches (width to height). Minimum 24 pages, maximum 600pp. If you are doing a book light on text but heavy with graphics or drawings, or a children's book in large format, an estimate may need to be based on hours of work rather than on number of pages— though not necessarily more expensive.

INTERIOR DESIGN, TYPOGRAPHY: (Book designers are welcome to apply.) Normal sizes listed above are designed for optimum amount of running text per page, with typical prices as listed. For large print or unusual format projects, describe your intended book dimensions and requirements, and ask for a revised estimate.


What if I want to skip the print edition and just go for ebook formats?

In that case, after you're satisfied with the editing, skip the Beta Books edition and go right to Smashwords. They specialize in text-to-ebooks essentially for free. That might work for your project. You'll be your own DIY publisher.




Beta Books is an imprint of Bandanna Books


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